Friday, 19 June 2009

Who's Right Is Right?

Yesterday we saw the first criminal trial without a jury for 400 years. I’ll spare you the details of the case, my concern is that the British equivalent to a Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, is slowly being eroded.

The Magna Carta clearly states (in Latin) that, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Even in recent law, the Human Rights Act 1998, Schedule 1, Article 6 states:
(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

The courts brought Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 into play in this case. A trial may be held without a jury if there is proof ot concern that there might be some kind of jury knobbling. The Act states:
(6) The following are examples of cases where there may be evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place—
(a) a case where the trial is a retrial and the jury in the previous trial was discharged because jury tampering had taken place,
(b) a case where jury tampering has taken place in previous criminal proceedings involving the defendant or any of the defendants,
(c) a case where there has been intimidation, or attempted intimidation, of any person who is likely to be a witness in the trial.

All well and good, but are judges above tampering and intimidation?

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